It’s no surprise that seven in 10 (69%) parents feel this year’s summer holidays will be harder to plan than usual (according to research by the campaign group Smart Energy GB). But to help on the money side, if you know where to look, there are tons of no-cost ways to create special memories.
Bean a virtual dinosaur into your home
You may have already seen that you can project 3D animals into your home via your phone, thanks to Google’s augmented-reality search feature. It has now added dinosaurs, so you can play with a virtual T-Rex, stegosaurus or velociraptor.
Just download Google Chrome to your phone, then search for a dinosaur. Click the ‘view in 3D button’, then ‘view in your space’ and you should see the creature prowling your room on your device’s screen. To access this feature, your device will need to be AR (augmented reality) enabled, so this might not work on some older phones.
Go on a ‘painted rock’ treasure hunt – or decorate your own pebbles
Ever spotted a beautifully decorated pebble nestled in the sand or underneath a tree stump and wondered how it came to be there? It’s all about Love On The Rocks, a community of rock-painting fans who paint pebbles and leave them for others to find. The UK’s Love On The Rocks Facebook group now boasts about 100,000 members, sharing pebble sightings from all over the country. Enthusiasts post photos of the beautiful rocks they’ve painted, as well as stones they’ve found and where.
It’s easy to get involved. First, find a pebble – the smoother, the better. Then sketch your design on with a pencil. Get painting – acrylic paints are the best choice for stone. Once finished, just hide your rock for a passer-by to happen upon or create a treasure hunt in the garden with them.
Take the online Summer Reading Challenge
The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge 2020 hopes to inspire children aged four to 11 to read six books over the summer holidays.
Just sign up for free on its site. This year’s theme is Silly Squad, celebrating funny books. Each time kids finish a book, they add it to their Silly Squad profile, give it a rating and leave a review. At the end, there’s a certificate to download. The challenge runs until mid-September.
Cool off with some frozen dinosaur eggs
Small kids love playing with ice and these dinosaur eggs are super simple to make. All you need is a few balloons and toy dinosaurs.
First stretch a balloon’s neck over the toy dinosaur (this can involve a bit of trial and error). Then fill the balloon with water (drop of food colouring optional)
Next tie up the balloon and put it in the freezer. In about 12 hours, it should be frozen solid – just cut off the balloon. Now your dinosaur fan can watch the dinosaur slowly ‘hatch’ in the sunshine. For some added science, try melting the eggs with saltwater.
Become a nature detective
Escape the hustle and bustle and take a walk through a woodland. Before you go, download the Woodland Trust’s British tree identification app (available on iPhone and Android). It helps you identify UK trees by leaf, flower, fruit or bark.
You can also complete Woodland Trust activities. Ideas include outdoor fun such as a minibeast hunt, nature art and more. For rainy days there are craft activities and colouring sheets. See Woodland Trust for full information.
Glamp in the garden
Fancy a spot of camping? For all the fun, but none of the cost or hassle, what better place to sleep in a tent than your own garden (if you’ve a safe one, of course). Kids will love the adventure and you’ll still have access to important home comforts, such as a warm shower or a glass of cold lemonade.
Set up a makeshift camp with a torch, chairs, rugs and cushions. You could glam it up with whatever you have to hand, be it bunting, toys or battery-powered fairy lights. Complete the experience by roasting marshmallows or s’mores.
Dip strawberries in chocolate or make your own ice lollies
Get kids interested in eating fruit… by dipping it in chocolate. Melt chocolate pieces in a heat-proof bowl, and let kids dip the strawberries in – see a full recipe.
Another favourite summer treat is a DIY ice lolly with fresh fruit. You just need a lolly mould (you can often find them at pound shops). Check out these lolly recipes from the BBC, or you might even be able to sneak in some spinach.
Make your own stop-motion movie via free app
Kids can stage their own ‘stop motion’ movie with their Lego, Playmobil, Sylvanian Families figures or whatever toys they have to hand – just by downloading a free app. The idea is you give life to inanimate toys by shooting a few frames at a time, while moving objects in between shots.